Fellow in Focus: Abdulmotaleb El Saddik, FCAE
Communications technologies have come a long way since the introduction of the home computer, the bulky car phone, and the fax machine. Newer interactive technologies such as the smart phone and video conferencing allow individual users to stay connected and communicate in real time using primarily sight and sound. But what's next? What if it was possible to implement the element of touch?
One individual pushing the sensory boundaries in research is Dr. Abdulmotaleb El Saddik, Professor and Director of the Multimedia Communications Research Laboratory (MCRLab) at the University of Ottawa.
The youngest Fellow ever inducted into the Canadian Academy of Engineering, Dr. El Saddik is most recognized for his work in haptics - the Greek word for "touch." Dr. El Saddik's research seeks to expand the way in which we sense and transmit information using communications technologies to include the perception of touch.
"Technology is reaching a limit in terms of what can be done in multimedia applications with only sight and sound," says Dr. El Saddik. "The next critical step is to bring the sense of touch over network connections."
Dr. El Saddik's research team at the MCRLab considers haptics the new media. They are exploring novel ways to both reproduce and transmit the sensation of human touch through the internet, with the hope of dramatically improving the user experience in a variety of multimedia applications.
Seemingly limitless in its applications, the success of these efforts is best illustrated in Dr. El Saddik's synchronous haptic teleconferencing system HugMe. Building on conventional telecommunication systems that convey audiovisual information, this novel system strengthens interpersonal communications by adding a touch component to thecommunicationsexperience.
This is achieved by having participants fitted with a customized jacket that transmits the sensation of touch through vibration. HugMe is clearly a novel technology that is offering a real-time opportunity for users to express affection, intention, or emotion.
Imagine the possibilities! Whether expanding the virtual reality world or taking serious strides towards telemedical applications, these innovative designs offer only a small glimpse of our future.
Dr. El Saddik is a new Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada (FEIC) and recently became the youngest Canadian Fellow to be inducted into the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Dr. El Saddik is also the first Canadian in computer science to receive the prestigious Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany.
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